Thought for the Week: ‘Be vigilant, awake and always on your guard’

Our Lord’s advice in the gospel reading for tomorrow, Advent Sunday, the beginning of a new church’ year, is timely and necessary: “Be on your guard.”

By William Morton
Saturday, 27th November 2021, 6:23 am
Updated Saturday, 27th November 2021, 6:24 am
Rev Dr William Morton, Church of Ireland
Rev Dr William Morton, Church of Ireland

Strange advice, we might be tempted to think, when, less than four weeks to Christmas, we are anticipating the joy of the festival rather than being on our guard against unspecified perils.

Yet, it is good advice, as never before. Latest news bulletins are reporting ever increasing numbers of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the last few days causing hospitals and intensive care units to be overwhelmed, indeed to breaking point.

Millions, many of them children, remain unvaccinated in impoverished countries, and at huge risk to infection, serious illness, and death. Changing climate concerns intensify with serious threat to the future of the world. Conflicts and wars remain with us today as in centuries past.

It is at times such as these that God so often insists upon challenging our deepest anxieties and surprising us yet again with divine mercy and redemption. That is also the message of today’s gospel narrative. Even in the midst of the world’s confusion and chaos, Jesus reassures us: “The Kingdom of God is near”. As difficult as it may sometimes be to discern its presence. Our Lord faced turbulent times as well – born of parents forced to seek shelter for the night in a cow shed – not exactly the palace of a prince or king.

Yet, the surprise of Christ’s incarnation forces us to look again in our own age at the “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars”, and to consider anew the signs of God’s involvement in the world about us.

Advent is the season when we learn to overcome our “fear and foreboding” and once more open our hearts to others just as God has disclosed and demonstrated his love for us in Christ.

Advent also reminds us that our spiritual winter will come to an end. The fig tree will again blossom and bloom. “Summer is near,” our Lord reassures us – even at the beginning of Advent. “Our redemption is drawing near.”

Amid all the difficulties of this life, when uncertainty and fear loom near, may we ever look to Jesus, and put all our faith and trust in Him, mindful that His word and promise to His people “will not pass away”.

Let us remember His timely warning: “Be on your guard”. We must always recall that, as the Gospel reminds us, our Lord will come like a thief in the night, and at a time when we least expect him. As we enter the Advent season, may we be vigilant, awake, and always on our guard for Christ’s ‘Second Coming’.

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